It was a great honour to be invited to speak at the Women Leadership Forum the 01 October 2020, an event organised by the European Brand Institute and UNIDO at Vienna International Centre (In respect with the Covid-19 measures).

It was an excellent opportunity to gather women from across the world in-person and online to facilitate better access for women to professional resources and opportunities.

During my intervention in the panel “Empowering women in the digital age: where do we stand?” I shared why digitalisation is a lifeline for women and how we need to change our mindset to take advantage of this new era.

It was a pleasure to share the stage with Silvia Angelo, Silvia Rathgeb, Cristiane Noll brilliantly moderated by Sonja Kato.

The topic of the forum – Women for prosperity: what is taking so long?

“Knowing that the female economy is the world’s largest emerging market. Investing in women can unlock infinite potential around the globe!”

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How will the digital revolution impact women in particular?

I believe that the digital revolution is a lifeline for women and traditionally marginalised people in the industrial age. They have now easy access to the information they need.

The cost of owning a business has been slashed, and technology enables access to new markets, to create products and services faster, better and cheaper and to run operations more efficiently.

  • We no longer need expensive software or hardware to run a business. Everything is now in the cloud, and you only pay a fraction of the price to access it as you go.
  • Access to a broader market online is a reality.
  • Women have now the possibility to work remotely, and using tech gave rise to the mumpreneurs. They can start a side hustle or a fully fledge business using their laptop and become financially independent. The Covid-19 crisis has accelerated this trend.
  • It’s possible to build a network with other women across the world who share the same passion, the same challenges and find solutions and resources.

But to realise the potential of the digital fully, women need proper digital literacy skills. They need to know how to use the digital tools available and be part of those who produce these tools.

Governments need to build capacity and enable easy and cheap access to internet infrastructure to democratise its use.

Women need training in business and mentoring by successful entrepreneurs. They also need access to a robust network that will open doors to new markets and access to capital to grow their businesses.

women leadership forum UNIDO - Hawa Kebe - Francine Beleyi

What still hold women back?

  • Lack of role models: Women are not venturing in tech roles because they don’t see other people they can identify with – there is a need for.
  • Self-confidence: women wait to have 100% of the requirements to apply for the position they want whilst men dare put themselves forward with less
  • Power of conversations: we don’t know what we don’t know until other people tell us what is possible. Having an honest discussion with others who are willing to share their journey helps to demystify what it is to be in tech.
  • Motivation: Be good with tech is not that complicated; you have to be motivated enough to learn what you need. There is a lot of tutorials online for free online – ignorance is a luxury you can’t afford to have today.

A lot of people who are in tech don’t have a technical background. I recently interviewed Shireen Jaffer, a young woman in my podcast who was able to raise 2.7 million for her EdTech company from High-Net-Worth individuals directly rather than the VCs. She was able to secure this funding because of her persistence, her network but also because of her confidence and thinking out-of-the-box.

  • Institutional barriers: Not holding businesses accountable. If it’s not part of businesses metrics to advance women‘s cause, nothing significant will be done.

What actions should be taken to increase the participation of women in digital?

If women are not empowered in real life first no matter how much digital tools we use, they will stay marginalised. Real empowerment needs to happen at the foundation level.

  • We need to start shifting the education at home: stop giving dolls to girls and cars to boys and call the girls who don’t like dressing up tomboys! Get boys and girls to help with the house chores equally.
  • Rethink the education system where we spend our time learning a set of things that are the opposite of how the business works.
    • Teach Collaboration rather than competition
    • Teach Creativity rather than memorising and having good or bad answers
    • Stop rewarding success at all cost and penalising failure
  • We need to give women real power and visibility by showcasing successful women on social media, company website, adverts, films, etc.
  • Need to see more role models from all background and origin to know that this is possible for them too
  • Women must want to do it The society shouldn’t put their expectation on women to join the STEM fields but instead, present the range of careers possible in ICT and inspire them with the possibilities. We need to show them models that make them dream. I enrolled in IT because I dreamt about all the future opportunities. They need to see that STEM, STEAM or STEAMD topics are a possible option for them and can be sexy. It’s not just about coding 0 and 1.
  • Women also need to have self-confidence in their ability, knowing they can give it a go and see if they like it or not.
  • Men need to be active allies and take an active part in advancing women empowerment, speak out and be strong advocates.

What’s the Next Step?

Countless external and internal factors have prevented women from rising to their full potential. But in the digital age, we no longer have to wait. We can create our platform, go after our dreams, and connect to like-minded people to help us carry our vision. And for that, we need to start dreaming again.

In the digital age, we no longer have to wait.

What if you could dream big, unbelievably big and achieve what you want or even a fraction of it?

Successful people like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, etc. have dreamt beyond the possible. The rest is history.

Dare Dream Again!

How are you positioning now and for the future as a female leader? How do you make sure you stand out?

If you are looking to redefine your identity in your marketplace and position as an authority, attract your ideal clients and impact thousands globally, request a call or a mini-brand audit session with me today.

About Francine Beleyi

I am Francine Beleyi, digital strategist, business mentor and personal branding expert. I am also the founder of nucleus of change and author of Personal Branding in the Digital Age: how to become a known expert, thrive and make a difference in a connected world.  I am a speaker and the host of the podcast MWML podcast where I interview CEOs, entrepreneurs and thought leaders who share their journey both their success and struggles to inspire us to live a meaningful life.

I am on a mission to empowering purpose-driven business leaders to position themselves as an authority in their field, attract their ideal clients (rather than chase them) and impact thousands globally.